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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter March 20, 2016

Right’s Complex Relation to Ethics in Kant: The Limits of Independentism

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From the journal Kant-Studien


The recent literature on the relation in Kant between duties of right and duties of virtue is dominated by a debate on whether duties of right can be derived from duties of virtue. According to one important argument, there is a tension or even a paradox in Kant between various claims concerning juridical norms, a paradox which can best be solved by assuming an “Independentist” position, that is, the view that the Universal Principle of Right is independent from the Categorical Imperative and, hence, that duties of right are normatively independent from duties of virtue. My claim in this paper is that the paradox which supports the independentist reading affects Kant’s claims only when the focus is on the subjective validity of duties. Once the focus is changed to objective validity, with which Kant is actually concerned, the paradox is dissolved and the Universal Principle of Right can appear as normatively dependent on the Categorical Imperative. In other words, in this paper, I argue that the scope of the paradox of juridical norms is confined to a specific focus and independentism (the view that duties of right are independent from duties of virtue) is confined in a similar way. Hence, the complexity of Kant’s account makes it possible for him to accommodate both independentist and dependentist views of the relation between right and virtue.


Work on this paper was carried out during a period of institutional research leave and affiliation to the ERC Advanced Research Project “Distortions of Normativity”; I am grateful to the ERC Project’s PI and to Keele University for making this period of research possible.

Published Online: 2016-3-20
Published in Print: 2016-3-20

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